A Comptroller and Auditor General audit report on the catering services in the Indian Railways, to be tabled in Parliament on Friday, has observed that food articles unsuitable for human consumption, contaminated foodstuff, recycled foodstuff, packaged and bottled items past their shelf life and unauthorised brands of water bottles were offered for sale at stations.
The audit has found fault with frequent changes in catering policy of the railways that have created a state of uncertainty in the management of catering services provided to the passengers. An inspection has revealed cleanliness and hygiene are not being maintained, bills are not being given for the food items served in mobile units in trains, besides several deficiencies in food quality.
During the joint inspection of the CAG team and the railways at selected 74 stations and 80 trains, the audit noticed that cleanliness and hygiene were not being maintained at catering units at stations and in trains.
“Unpurified water straight from the tap was used in the preparation of beverages, waste bins were not found covered, not emptied regularly and not washed, food stuff was not covered to protect them from flies, insects and dust, rats and cockroaches were found in trains etc.,” the audit observed.
Neither were bills provided to passengers for food items served in trains nor printed menu cards with the tariff for the list of items sold in the mobile units were available with waiters and catering managers in any of the trains inspected.
“Food stuff served was less than the prescribed quantity, unapproved packaged drinking water was sold,” the report has said and pointed out that prices of food articles sold in railway premises were significantly higher than the open market.
Articles unsuitable for human consumption, contaminated foodstuff, recycled foodstuff, shelf life expired packaged and bottled items, unauthorised brands of water bottles, etc., were offered for sale on stations,” CAG noted.
The report says the mess has been created due to frequent policy changes and the failure of the Indian Railways to take effective steps to bridge the gap to provide necessary infrastructure in terms of base kitchens, static catering units, and automatic vending machines etc.
“Blueprint for the provision of catering services was not prepared in seven Zonal Railways. The policy of progressive switch over from gas burners to electric power equipment in pantry cars to avoid the occurrence of fire accidents in trains was not followed while manufacturing the pantry cars in Integral Coach Factory, Perambur,” the report said.